No indication Canada bird flu outbreak has spread

Mon Jan 26, 2009 7:55pm EST
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VANCOUVER, British Columbia (Reuters) - There is no indication an outbreak of bird flu in Canada has spread beyond the turkey farm near Vancouver where the disease was discovered last week but testing continues, officials said on Monday.

Crews began killing the 60,000 turkeys at the farm in Abbotsford, British Columbia that were ordered destroyed after the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) confirmed several of the birds had contracted the virus.

Officials say the disease was H5 avian influenza but were awaiting test results to determine the exact virus strain and it pathogenicity, a measure of how severe the illness is to birds. Initial tests indicate it was a less severe strain.

There were no human illnesses associated with the outbreak and Canadian officials said the health threat to people in this case was very low.

The H5N1 strain of the virus can infect people and is responsible for 252 human deaths since 2003, according to the World Health Organization.

Farms within a 3 km (2 mile) radius of the initial outbreak have been quarantined for further monitoring but preliminary tests on birds from 10 of the 23 farms found no sign of the disease, a provincial agriculture official said.

A farm outside the quarantined zone is also being monitored because there may have been human contact, such as a traveling worker, between it and the farm where the outbreak was discovered, CFIA said.

The farms are in the Fraser Valley east of Vancouver, which also suffered avian influenza outbreaks in 2004 and 2005.

It was not yet known how the turkeys in this case caught the flu but officials have speculated they may have contracted it from wild waterfowl in the area. Wild birds often carry the avian influenza virus.

(Reporting Allan Dowd; Editing by John O'Callaghan)